If there's one thing people never seem to tire of, it's a good whodunnit murder mystery - you only need look at the success of Benedict 'otter face' Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes series, the pretty gruesome Hannibal or everyone's favourite blood splatter specialist, Dexter. And then there's the endless reruns of Midsomer Murders too, and oodles of American police dramas like CSI, NCIS and Hawaii Five-O. Basically, everyone loves a good mystery, and they're the type of story that makes for a surprisingly good game too, as you take on the role of the detective and puzzle the case out yourself. The latest? A reworking of Agatha Christie's ABC Murders, from point and click adventure game specialists, Microids.
Reminding us of our much-loved Sherlock Holmes series of adventure games, The ABC Murders follows fiction's other most famous detective, Hercule Poirot. Based on the Agatha Christie book of the same name, The ABC Murders sees Mr Poirot attempting to solve the mystery of the elusive murderer, known only as 'ABC' - a killer with some serious OCD tendencies. With their first victim being Alice Ascher in Andover, and their second Betty Barnard in Bexhill, as each murder works through the alphabet, and each is accompanied by a letter to Poirot himself, it falls to the moustachioed inspector instead of Scotland Yard to get to the bottom of the mysterious murders.
Slower paced, and depending more on puzzle solving than quick-fire reactions, you'll spend much of your time as you explore the 1930s towns and cities talking to the locals and interviewing suspects, making use of Poirot's trademark psychological intuition, whereby he plays close attention to people's body language and behaviour to help him piece together the truth, deducing much about them without uttering a word. And of course, lets not forget some good old fashioned examining of the crime scene, whether it's looking for clues left behind by the killer or taking a closer look at the dead body - whatever you find can then be used to help Poirot piece together the killer's identity, and solve the case once and for all.
More conventional puzzles play a part too, where you'll need to rotate panels to change their colour and unlock a cupboard door, or crack the code written in a book. Certain objects may even grab Poirot's attention, and by rotating, clicking and manipulating them, you may find they're more complex than they initially seem, packed with secret compartments or well-hidden clues to the case. Some may have puzzles built into them, such as a slide-puzzle-esque set of cogs in a clock, where shuffling them around to the right places reveals a hidden compartment, while flicking a few well-hidden switches on the back of the cash register will let you get you inside. And for those who find their brain crying out for mercy when trying to figure out the fiendish clues, Microids have also added a new feature called 'Automatic Resolution' that lets you skip over puzzles you're stuck on, so you can move on with the story.
By collecting evidence from various sources, you'll need to piece them together in some kind of logical order to build up a better idea of what happened, in a variation of Hercule Poirot's "little grey cells" he talks of in the novels. Essentially, each unique piece of evidence is represented by a bubble, and it's up to you to link them together in the right order to make deeper deductions and move the case forward - it's a mechanic we've seen used before in similar games, such as Sherlock Holmes' deduction boards, where it not only functions as another puzzle to solve, but also serves as a handy reminder of the events so far, making sure everyone's on the right track too.
And while we've never read the original novel of The ABC Murders (although we are now more interested in Agatha Christie than we ever were before), Microids assure us that even those that know the book will have a few surprises along the way. The general storyline may be much the same, but they've gone off piste slightly, adding a few new leads that weren't in the original, as well as two alternative endings that depend on the decisions you make along the way too.
As long-time fans of adventure and point and click games, we're very much interested in how Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders will shape up, when it hits the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC next month, on the 5th February (with the PC version being up for download on Steam from the 4th). Why not check out the slightly sinister trailer below to get yourself in the crime-solving mood too: